A “warm welcome” is being offered to those in need of some extra support this winter, following the arrival of freezing temperatures.
People had to crank up their heating this week as Congleton saw its first snow of the season, but community leaders were determined not leave residents out in the cold.
Jackie MacArthur, the town council’s deputy chief officer, has been meeting community groups to draw up a list of what’s on offer in Congleton for those who might be struggling.
She explained: “The cost of living crisis is hitting all sorts of people. It’s pushed lots who thought they’d never need help, to need support this year.”
The community effort came after a survey conducted by Congleton Town Council in September found that 54% of respondents were either “just about managing” financially or “struggling to make ends meet”.
The survey, to which 229 Congleton residents responded, also found that 67.54% had “struggled” or “fallen behind” with paying their bills and that 69% were “worried” about their finances over the next 12 months.
Mark Bailey, owner of Bluey’s bar next to the town hall, offers a free, warm meal twice a week on Mondays, 11am-3pm and Thursdays, 3pm-6pm.
He said: “We’re calling it Food and Friendship. It is literally open for anybody. All they have to do is book a place by giving me a call or text, so we’ve got enough food for everyone who turns up. They can even bring their dog.”
Mr Bailey, who is also a Biddulph Rotarian and took the lead in collecting £96,000 worth of aid for Ukraine earlier this year, was concerned that some people might feel too embarrassed to ask for the help that they desperately needed.
He explained: “Sometimes people from Biddulph will go to Congleton foodbanks and Congleton people will go to Biddulph and that’s purely because they don’t want to be seen using the service.”
He wanted to reassure people who were struggling: “The culture here is that we’re all in this together. If someone feels a bit unsure, we can meet with them before they come, so that they’ve got at least one familiar face. Or we can have someone waiting outside to greet them so that they’re not walking in for the first time on their own.”
Cheshire East Council is also offering support. Its Warm places scheme provides funding to community groups and businesses that want their premises to be a “warm hub”.
Higher Ground Café Bar in the town centre, Congleton Library and The Chappell Centre in Mossley are all participating in the scheme and offer “a warm and welcoming drop-in space” for anyone wishing to save on their energy bills.
A full list of Warm Places can be found on the Cheshire East Council website. To book in for a free meal at Bluey’s, call Mr Bailey on 07722 008 421.
From Monday, a full list of the services available in Congleton can be obtained from the information centre in Congleton Town Hall foyer.